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Leaching From Plastic Bottles

Mineral water packaged in plastic bottles has higher levels of estrogen mimics than that housed in glass bottles

by Rachel A. Petkewich
March 23, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 12

Mineral water packaged in plastic contains roughly twice the amount of estrogen mimics compared with water sold in glass, according to new research (Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res., DOI: 10.1007/s11356-009-0107-7). Estrogenic compounds have potential adverse health effects, so it is important to determine if these compounds can migrate from packaging into water and food. Martin Wagner and Jörg Oehlmann of Johann Wolfgang Goethe University evaluated estrogenic activity in 20 brands of bottled water found in German stores. They found increased activity in 12 of the 20, most of which relied on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. To explore if estrogen-like chemicals were leaching from the plastic bottles, the researchers emptied glass and plastic bottles, filled them with water of well-characterized composition, and bred snails in them that are known to be sensitive to estrogen-like compounds. At the end of 56 days, female snails living in the PET bottles had produced more than double the number of embryos compared with the snails housed in glass bottles. The researchers suspect a mixture of specific estrogenic compounds is responsible for the effect.


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